Florida education department increases emphasis on value-added model in teacher evaluations
Just before winter break, the Florida Department of Education told superintendents of a plan to give more credibility to teachers with multi-year success in the complicated value-added model evaluation system.
It sent out lists of teachers who had earned four consecutive "highly effective" VAM scores in reading, math or both. The lists also included teachers who eanred four straight "unsatisfactory" ratings.
The DOE reported that 32 elementary teachers in 18 districts scored highly effective in both reading and math, while five districts had elementary teachers that scored unsatisfactory in both subject areas.
"These four years include three years of FCAT 2.0 and one year of Florida Standards Assessment student growth data," commissioner Pam Stewart wrote to superintendents. "This is important because the teachers included as highly effective continued to provide instruction that resulted in greater improvement in student academic growth than that of like students across the state through the transition to the new standards and the new assessment. Additionally, remember this is a measure based on learning growth, not high achievement scores. Our hope is that this information can assist you in your work to continue to improve student achievement."
VAM, which has been challenged as both unproven and unfair, is supposed to help determine whether teachers affected student learning after eliminating the effects of outside factors, such as wealth and race. The formula is set through state rule, although districts can and do define the overall evaluation ratings differently, based in part on contract negotiations.
Given the static that VAM has generated since its inception, the state's effort to praise this small group of teachers has raised hackles in some quarters. The takeaway from critics is that the DOE's focus on VAM negates the importance of other aspects of evaluations, such as classroom observations, even at a time when lawmakers have told districts they can reduce the weight attributed to VAM.
Expect the debate to intensify when the state releases its latest report on evaluations from 2014-15. It's due in February.